For businesses that need to sell online or want to migrate to the new era of online shopping. A good and reliable platform for your business is a must. Most of the businesses rely on their online shop to bring sales and increase their revenue and customer base.
As for what is available for small, medium and large businesses are mostly Shopify and WooCommerce which is based on WordPress and requires you an infrastructure and a hosting provider such as DigitalOcean.
What is a platform?
A platform is mostly a server software or an SaaS (Software as a Service) that allows you to create your own online shop. The software itself offers you the infrastructure and ability to process payment, orders and showcase your products online.
Most of the people know Shopify as an online platform for businesses and also WooCommerce. In this blog article, we will showcase both of them and tell you the differences that make them unique.
This platform became hugely popular due to dropshipping. A lot of people started doing dropshipping through Shopify because it was well integrated and offered plugins to directly order an item from an wholesaler mostly based in China such as AliExpress.
In a few clicks, you were able to create a business and bring profits. Plugins like AliExpress Dropshipping were used by thousands of people who own a Shopify enable store to sell cheap items for a profit.
You can find good articles with a more in-depth description about dropshipping plugins here.
Why has Shopify got so popular?
Well… The answer is pretty much, the convenience of doing business for cheap. The starter plan cost about $29 per month which is not very much, if you want to run a serious business. If you compare it with a custom platform with a hosting plan, it may cost you about $2xxx to $5xxx depending on the type of platform you want to build.
That’s only for developing and building your online business platform. We aren’t yet talking about the hosting or updating your custom platform to modern web technologies which also will cost you more along the way. Your online shop is a critical part of your business, this means an reliable and fast infrastructure is needed.
Also you need to pay for a SSL certificate, because free SSL certificates do not offer insurance coverage in case of data breach. Comodo (now Sertigo) or DigiCert offers basic SSL certificate for about $80 per year.
Free SSL certificate will also do the job, but a paid SSL certificate offers just like I said insurance against data breach of your customers information.
Hosting might cost you big bucks ($xxx) and to speed up the loading time a CDN is required which brings the cost even higher. Yes, you can use CloudFlare, but CDN are not all the same. CloudFlare does not offer you a lot of custom parameters. The big guys need special settings to maximize loading pages. Amazon CloudFront by example allows you to customize your Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as HTTP headers and cache invalidation, heavy integration and CloudFront also works with live streaming content.
CloudFlare does also offer streaming content delivery but it is billed by the number of views.
Most of the CDN are billed per GB data transferred, so each time a user visits your website it is consuming data to deliver assets, content and other static and no static object to the end-user.
A CDN allows you to speed up the loading page (which is crucial for a good user experience, because who loves waiting 5 seconds for a page to be loaded.) by duplicating the content (e.g. images) that your site (in that case your e-commerce site) has to load throughout a huge network of data centers around the world.
Instead of connecting to the main server where your site is hosted by example in Australia. It will connect to a server that is hosting the content on a nearby server of the end-user (visitor).
Ok, back to what we were talking about.
So yeah, it will cost you a lot of money to build a self-hosted, custom ecommerce site that suits your needs.
This is where Shopify comes to simplify your life as a small business owner. How about getting a good and reliable platform that will be always up-to-date, hosted on the cloud on your behalf so no need to worry about server fixes and maintenance, CDN provided and a payment gateway also provided (powered by Stripe)?
For as little as $29 per month (starting price)? That’s becoming really interesting and cheap, no?
That’s what it is all about. Shopify is a technology company that offers a solution built-on cloud. That’s their business. Their money comes from revenue that you make, so they better provide you a good platform so you can make sales.
You can start a business within a day with Shopify. Grab a domain name, a Shopify plan, a template free or premium, buy some Facebook or Google Ads and a dropshipping plugin. You’re all set!
$29 per month is more affordable and can reach a lot of people than $xxxx. This is all about convenience, cheap and easy to use. Shopify’s UI is really simple to use.
WooCommerce (Powered by WordPress).
Now let’s talk about WooCommerce. What is this? WooCommerce isn’t a Software as a Service, it is a plugin that works on WordPress.org (self-hosted).
It allows you to create a store under WordPress (self-hosted) which is mainly a blog CMS (Content Management Software).
WordPress is an amazing tool that allows you to create a blog or website super easily. There’s a huge community, plugins and themes available. According to WordPress, more than 36% of all websites are running under the CMS. My guess is that it includes WordPress.org and WordPress.com (the commercial, hosted and limited version of WordPress) are included.
Big sites such as Times.com, The New York Times, Facebook’s Blog and TechCrunch are using WordPress as their platform for their website.
WooCommerce (that you can download the plugin here) is a plugin that allows you to have a e-commerce site and blog at the same time.
Let’s say you publish recipes about foods online on your blog. To maximize your revenue because ads aren’t paying that well. You want to sell your digital books and merchandise on your blog. You can do so with WooCommerce.
After installing WooCommerce on your WordPress instance, you’ll follow a set up wizard that allows you to properly configure your WooCommerce instance.
WooCommerce offers much more flexibility than Shopify and can be easily integrated to your main theme on WordPress. If you are planning to buy a premium paid template, please make sure it is WooCommerce compatible, so your WordPress website design would have a seamless design throughout your website.
More flexibility means more features which means as well a bit more complicated to use. For me it is worth it. A whole community is there to help, you can easily find an answer by google it.
Since your WordPress is self-hosted, that means you need to do server maintenance and software updates. Good things for your software update are made automatically, but make sure your theme and plugins are compatible with the WordPress version you’re about to update to. Otherwise, it might break your website.
The alternative might be to use a WordPress Managed Hosting such as WPEngine. Yes, that’s a bit more expensive than your everyday VPS on DigitalOcean, but they managed everything from server maintenance to awesome WordPress support.
WPEngine offers you the same amazing experience as Shopify, but with a much more flexible solution on the amazing WordPress platform. WPEngine offers you also a CDN to maximize your website speed loading, free premium themes throughout StudioPress, free Genesis framework to rapidly develop custom made WordPress themes, SSL certificate and much more.
WooCommerce is great for existing WordPress users. One home for both sites. If you need a lot of flexibility then WooCommerce is the way to go.
Shopify on the other end is for everyone. If you need a simple, but reliable solution without even thinking about servers and infrastructure then go ahead with Shopify.
WPEngine also offers a managed WordPress solution. Hosted (no server hassle), CDN, premium theme, Genesis framework for rapidly developed custom made theme, free SSL and much more)/